28 December 2012

Port cities viewed through fractal analysis (with special focus on land use formation around airports) Draft-Updated 30 December 2012

(This image is the harbor road leading from the port to other land uses in the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus , located  near Selçuk, Turkey. .  It was lined with shops which were selling goods that would be interested to those going to and from the port.  It is not by accident that Ephesus became a major center key in the spread of Christianity as it was a major cultural center in the Roman Empire.  When the port filled in with silt, the city declined rapidly.  This underscores the importance of key transportation nodes to the very survival of an urban areas.The image is located at: http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/arcadianstreet.htm. This site also has a further description of the street and Ephesus.)

I am still in the process of reading two books: Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next (Kasarda and Lindsay) and Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis (Binelli.)  Both speak of an evolving metropolis where there is  no end state, nor an entirely new phenomena.  Both books blend some of the topics that I first explored in my dissertation almost twenty years ago (The Land Use Impact of an Airport and Urban Structure: A Case Study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin *) which I looked at the land use impact of General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee and compared it to a declining port and suburban area.   It was also at this time that I started my exploration of fractals and complexity theory as they apply to urbanization. Therefore, when I look at the importance and impact of airports and the accession and decline of cities or areas of cities, I view them with a different perspective than other urbanists.

“Things change to remain the same” is an adage that applies to airports.  An airport is a place of transportation interchange between passengers and freight.  This type of node has existed since mankind started to trade by sea, rivers and lakes which make interchange nodes at least three thousand years old.  The interchange node was the reason for the existence of major cities such as London, Paris, Rome (Ostia), Istanbul/Constantinople, New York, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, San Francisco etc.  The next major transportation mode—railroads, caused the impetus of new cities and the decline of others. Airplanes could be seen as the latest ‘public’ and cargo transportation mode to appear which has over a period of fifty years eclipsed the importance of railroads and waterborne transportation for passengers and non-bulk cargo. Waterborne transportation and railroads are the most efficient to ship large shipments (Passenger railroads still play an important role in most countries (with the exception of the U.S.), although diminished by the automobile). The airport emerging at the same time as automobiles and trucks has been shaped nature of this particular node and the associated landscape.

Within the context of fractal analysis and complex theory: one could see the port as an initiating fractal started with certain rules constrained or assisted by its environmental influences on various scales.  On another level, a port could be seen as an attractor in a dynamic environment drawing land uses that benefit from being near it.   Sea/River ports, airports and railroad stations/freight yards. have attracted warehouses, hotels, housing, financial businesses, industries, shipping companies, restaurants/bars, illicit business, etc.  The difference why areas around  arose and declined was related to the speed of the transportation mode.  The airplane is presently the fastest global transportation mode and its interchange nodes (airports) are presently the impetus for dynamic land use change in many urban areas.  The impact of the airport node is related to its importance in the global airport network and the characteristics of the metropolitan area.

The airport exists, as other previous ports related to older technologies, exist within the chaotic, fractal and complex nature of the city.  However, there are some distinct characteristic of airports that differ from other types of ports/interchange points (sea, river, railroads.)  The airport is related to moving people and goods fast.  The airport land uses are becoming destinations in themselves, such as office and conference hotels.  Some hotels are on the airport property itself (i.e. the Hilton Hotel in Chicago O’Hare airport.)  This attraction is not directly related to the metro area itself, but the importance of the node.  Negative impacts are the amount of land needed the noise impacts, and pollution (air and ground).   Urban planners and other public officials must operate in this dynamic and chaotic atmosphere and be adept at viewing the process in its theoretical and local context.

 *You have to be a member of academia.org  to download this document. 

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